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1.  Growth and Methane Oxidation Rates of Anaerobic Methanotrophic Archaea in a Continuous-Flow Bioreactor 
Anaerobic methanotrophic archaea have recently been identified in anoxic marine sediments, but have not yet been recovered in pure culture. Physiological studies on freshly collected samples containing archaea and their sulfate-reducing syntrophic partners have been conducted, but sample availability and viability can limit the scope of these experiments. To better study microbial anaerobic methane oxidation, we developed a novel continuous-flow anaerobic methane incubation system (AMIS) that simulates the majority of in situ conditions and supports the metabolism and growth of anaerobic methanotrophic archaea. We incubated sediments collected from within and outside a methane cold seep in Monterey Canyon, Calif., for 24 weeks on the AMIS system. Anaerobic methane oxidation was measured in all sediments after incubation on AMIS, and quantitative molecular techniques verified the increases in methane-oxidizing archaeal populations in both seep and nonseep sediments. Our results demonstrate that the AMIS system stimulated the maintenance and growth of anaerobic methanotrophic archaea, and possibly their syntrophic, sulfate-reducing partners. Our data demonstrate the utility of combining physiological and molecular techniques to quantify the growth and metabolic activity of anaerobic microbial consortia. Further experiments with the AMIS system should provide a better understanding of the biological mechanisms of methane oxidation in anoxic marine environments. The AMIS may also enable the enrichment, purification, and isolation of methanotrophic archaea as pure cultures or defined syntrophic consortia.
PMCID: PMC194967  PMID: 12957936
2.  Microbial Diversity of Hydrothermal Sediments in the Guaymas Basin: Evidence for Anaerobic Methanotrophic Communities† 
Microbial communities in hydrothermally active sediments of the Guaymas Basin (Gulf of California, Mexico) were studied by using 16S rRNA sequencing and carbon isotopic analysis of archaeal and bacterial lipids. The Guaymas sediments harbored uncultured euryarchaeota of two distinct phylogenetic lineages within the anaerobic methane oxidation 1 (ANME-1) group, ANME-1a and ANME-1b, and of the ANME-2c lineage within the Methanosarcinales, both previously assigned to the methanotrophic archaea. The archaeal lipids in the Guaymas Basin sediments included archaeol, diagnostic for nonthermophilic euryarchaeota, and sn-2-hydroxyarchaeol, with the latter compound being particularly abundant in cultured members of the Methanosarcinales. The concentrations of these compounds were among the highest observed so far in studies of methane seep environments. The δ-13C values of these lipids (δ-13C = −89 to −58‰) indicate an origin from anaerobic methanotrophic archaea. This molecular-isotopic signature was found not only in samples that yielded predominantly ANME-2 clones but also in samples that yielded exclusively ANME-1 clones. ANME-1 archaea therefore remain strong candidates for mediation of the anaerobic oxidation of methane. Based on 16S rRNA data, the Guaymas sediments harbor phylogenetically diverse bacterial populations, which show considerable overlap with bacterial populations of geothermal habitats and natural or anthropogenic hydrocarbon-rich sites. Consistent with earlier observations, our combined evidence from bacterial phylogeny and molecular-isotopic data indicates an important role of some novel deeply branching bacteria in anaerobic methanotrophy. Anaerobic methane oxidation likely represents a significant and widely occurring process in the trophic ecology of methane-rich hydrothermal vents. This study stresses a high diversity among communities capable of anaerobic oxidation of methane.
PMCID: PMC123873  PMID: 11916723
3.  Novel archaeal macrocyclic diether core membrane lipids in a methane-derived carbonate crust from a mud volcano in the Sorokin Trough, NE Black Sea 
Archaea  2002;1(3):165-173.
A methane-derived carbonate crust was collected from the recently discovered NIOZ mud volcano in the Sorokin Trough, NE Black Sea during the 11th Training-through-Research cruise of the R/V Professor Logachev. Among several specific bacterial and archaeal membrane lipids present in this crust, two novel macrocyclic diphytanyl glycerol diethers, containing one or two cyclopentane rings, were detected. Their structures were tentatively identified based on the interpretation of mass spectra, comparison with previously reported mass spectral data, and a hydrogenation experiment. This macrocyclic type of archaeal core membrane diether lipid has so far been identified only in the deep-sea hydrothermal vent methanogen Methanococcus jannaschii. Here, we provide the first evidence that these macrocyclic diethers can also contain internal cyclopentane rings. The molecular structure of the novel diethers resembles that of dibiphytanyl tetraethers in which biphytane chains, containing one and two pentacyclic rings, also occur. Such tetraethers were abundant in the crust. Compound-specific isotope measurements revealed δ13C values of –104 to –111‰ for these new archaeal lipids, indicating that they are derived from methanotrophic archaea acting within anaerobic methane-oxidizing consortia, which subsequently induce authigenic carbonate formation.
PMCID: PMC2685565  PMID: 15803662
anaerobic oxidation of methane; archaeal membrane lipids; fluid venting; microbial processes
4.  Archaeal and anaerobic methane oxidizer communities in the Sonora Margin cold seeps, Guaymas Basin (Gulf of California) 
The ISME Journal  2013;7(8):1595-1608.
Cold seeps, located along the Sonora Margin transform fault in the Guaymas Basin, were extensively explored during the ‘BIG' cruise in June 2010. They present a seafloor mosaic pattern consisting of different faunal assemblages and microbial mats. To investigate this mostly unknown cold and hydrocarbon-rich environment, geochemical and microbiological surveys of the sediments underlying two microbial mats and a surrounding macrofaunal habitat were analyzed in detail. The geochemical measurements suggest biogenic methane production and local advective sulfate-rich fluxes in the sediments. The distributions of archaeal communities, particularly those involved in the methane cycle, were investigated at different depths (surface to 18 cm below the sea floor (cmbsf)) using complementary molecular approaches, such as Automated method of Ribosomal Intergenic Spacer Analysis (ARISA), 16S rRNA libraries, fluorescence in situ hybridization and quantitative polymerase chain reaction with new specific primer sets targeting methanogenic and anaerobic methanotrophic lineages. Molecular results indicate that metabolically active archaeal communities were dominated by known clades of anaerobic methane oxidizers (archaeal anaerobic methanotroph (ANME)-1, -2 and -3), including a novel ‘ANME-2c Sonora' lineage. ANME-2c were found to be dominant, metabolically active and physically associated with syntrophic Bacteria in sulfate-rich shallow sediment layers. In contrast, ANME-1 were more prevalent in the deepest sediment samples and presented a versatile behavior in terms of syntrophic association, depending on the sulfate concentration. ANME-3 were concentrated in small aggregates without bacterial partners in a restricted sediment horizon below the first centimetres. These niche specificities and syntrophic behaviors, depending on biological surface assemblages and environmental availability of electron donors, acceptors and carbon substrates, suggest that ANME could support alternative metabolic pathways than syntrophic anaerobic oxidation of methane.
PMCID: PMC3721105  PMID: 23446836
ANME; AOM; Archaea; FISH; Q-PCR; Sonora Margin
5.  Comparative Analysis of Methane-Oxidizing Archaea and Sulfate-Reducing Bacteria in Anoxic Marine Sediments 
The oxidation of methane in anoxic marine sediments is thought to be mediated by a consortium of methane-consuming archaea and sulfate-reducing bacteria. In this study, we compared results of rRNA gene (rDNA) surveys and lipid analyses of archaea and bacteria associated with methane seep sediments from several different sites on the Californian continental margin. Two distinct archaeal lineages (ANME-1 and ANME-2), peripherally related to the order Methanosarcinales, were consistently associated with methane seep marine sediments. The same sediments contained abundant 13C-depleted archaeal lipids, indicating that one or both of these archaeal groups are members of anaerobic methane-oxidizing consortia. 13C-depleted lipids and the signature 16S rDNAs for these archaeal groups were absent in nearby control sediments. Concurrent surveys of bacterial rDNAs revealed a predominance of δ-proteobacteria, in particular, close relatives of Desulfosarcina variabilis. Biomarker analyses of the same sediments showed bacterial fatty acids with strong 13C depletion that are likely products of these sulfate-reducing bacteria. Consistent with these observations, whole-cell fluorescent in situ hybridization revealed aggregations of ANME-2 archaea and sulfate-reducing Desulfosarcina and Desulfococcus species. Additionally, the presence of abundant 13C-depleted ether lipids, presumed to be of bacterial origin but unrelated to ether lipids of members of the order Desulfosarcinales, suggests the participation of additional bacterial groups in the methane-oxidizing process. Although the Desulfosarcinales and ANME-2 consortia appear to participate in the anaerobic oxidation of methane in marine sediments, our data suggest that other bacteria and archaea are also involved in methane oxidation in these environments.
PMCID: PMC92814  PMID: 11282650
6.  Archaea in metazoan diets: implications for food webs and biogeochemical cycling 
The ISME Journal  2012;6(8):1602-1612.
Although the importance of trophic linkages, including ‘top-down forcing', on energy flow and ecosystem productivity is recognized, the influence of metazoan grazing on Archaea and the biogeochemical processes that they mediate is unknown. Here, we test if: (1) Archaea provide a food source sufficient to allow metazoan fauna to complete their life cycle; (2) neutral lipid biomarkers (including crocetane) can be used to identify Archaea consumers; and (3) archaeal aggregates are a dietary source for methane seep metazoans. In the laboratory, we demonstrated that a dorvilleid polychaete, Ophryotrocha labronica, can complete its life cycle on two strains of Euryarchaeota with the same growth rate as when fed bacterial and eukaryotic food. Archaea were therefore confirmed as a digestible and nutritious food source sufficient to sustain metazoan populations. Both strains of Euryarchaeota used as food sources had unique lipids that were not incorporated into O. labronica tissues. At methane seeps, sulfate-reducing bacteria that form aggregations and live syntrophically with anaerobic-methane oxidizing Archaea contain isotopically and structurally unique fatty acids (FAs). These biomarkers were incorporated into tissues of an endolithofaunal dorvilleid polychaete species from Costa Rica (mean bulk δ13C=−92±4‰ polar lipids −116‰) documenting consumption of archaeal-bacterial aggregates. FA composition of additional soft-sediment methane seep species from Oregon and California provided evidence that consumption of archaeal-bacterial aggregates is widespread at methane seeps. This work is the first to show that Archaea are consumed by heterotrophic metazoans, a trophic process we coin as ‘archivory'.
PMCID: PMC3400411  PMID: 22402398
anaerobic methane oxidation; archivory; authigenic carbonate; biomarker; microbial–metazoan interactions; cold seep
7.  Archaeal Populations in Hypersaline Sediments Underlying Orange Microbial Mats in the Napoli Mud Volcano▿† 
Microbial mats in marine cold seeps are known to be associated with ascending sulfide- and methane-rich fluids. Hence, they could be visible indicators of anaerobic oxidation of methane (AOM) and methane cycling processes in underlying sediments. The Napoli mud volcano is situated in the Olimpi Area that lies on saline deposits; from there, brine fluids migrate upward to the seafloor. Sediments associated with a brine pool and microbial orange mats of the Napoli mud volcano were recovered during the Medeco cruise. Based on analysis of RNA-derived sequences, the “active” archaeal community was composed of many uncultured lineages, such as rice cluster V or marine benthic group D. Function methyl coenzyme M reductase (mcrA) genes were affiliated with the anaerobic methanotrophic Archaea (ANME) of the ANME-1, ANME-2a, and ANME-2c groups, suggesting that AOM occurred in these sediment layers. Enrichment cultures showed the presence of viable marine methylotrophic Methanococcoides in shallow sediment layers. Thus, the archaeal community diversity seems to show that active methane cycling took place in the hypersaline microbial mat-associated sediments of the Napoli mud volcano.
PMCID: PMC3126394  PMID: 21335391
8.  Evidence of Intense Archaeal and Bacterial Methanotrophic Activity in the Black Sea Water Column 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2005;71(12):8099-8106.
In the northwestern Black Sea, methane oxidation rates reveal that above shallow and deep gas seeps methane is removed from the water column as efficiently as it is at sites located off seeps. Hence, seeps should not have a significant impact on the estimated annual flux of ∼4.1 × 109 mol methane to the atmosphere [W. S. Reeburgh, B. B. Ward, S. C. Wahlen, K. A. Sandbeck, K. A. Kilatrick, and L. J. Kerkhof, Deep-Sea Res. 38(Suppl. 2):S1189-S1210, 1991]. Both the stable carbon isotopic composition of dissolved methane and the microbial community structure analyzed by fluorescent in situ hybridization provide strong evidence that microbially mediated methane oxidation occurs. At the shelf, strong isotope fractionation was observed above high-intensity seeps. This effect was attributed to bacterial type I and II methanotrophs, which on average accounted for 2.5% of the DAPI (4′,6′-diamidino-2-phenylindole)-stained cells in the whole oxic water column. At deep sites, in the oxic-anoxic transition zone, strong isotopic fractionation of methane overlapped with an increased abundance of Archaea and Bacteria, indicating that these organisms are involved in the oxidation of methane. In underlying anoxic water, we successfully identified the archaeal methanotrophs ANME-1 and ANME-2, eachof which accounted for 3 to 4% of the total cell counts. ANME-1 and ANME-2 appear as single cells in anoxicwater, compared to the sediment, where they may form cell aggregates with sulfate-reducing bacteria (A. Boetius, K. Ravenschlag, C. J. Schubert, D. Rickert, F. Widdel, A. Giesecke, R. Amann, B. B. Jørgensen, U. Witte, and O. Pfannkuche, Nature 407:623-626, 2000; V. J. Orphan, C. H. House, K.-U. Hinrichs, K. D. McKeegan, and E. F. DeLong, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 99:7663-7668, 2002).
PMCID: PMC1317418  PMID: 16332791
9.  A Long-Term Cultivation of an Anaerobic Methane-Oxidizing Microbial Community from Deep-Sea Methane-Seep Sediment Using a Continuous-Flow Bioreactor 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(8):e105356.
Anaerobic oxidation of methane (AOM) in marine sediments is an important global methane sink, but the physiological characteristics of AOM-associated microorganisms remain poorly understood. Here we report the cultivation of an AOM microbial community from deep-sea methane-seep sediment using a continuous-flow bioreactor with polyurethane sponges, called the down-flow hanging sponge (DHS) bioreactor. We anaerobically incubated deep-sea methane-seep sediment collected from the Nankai Trough, Japan, for 2,013 days in the bioreactor at 10°C. Following incubation, an active AOM activity was confirmed by a tracer experiment using 13C-labeled methane. Phylogenetic analyses demonstrated that phylogenetically diverse Archaea and Bacteria grew in the bioreactor. After 2,013 days of incubation, the predominant archaeal components were anaerobic methanotroph (ANME)-2a, Deep-Sea Archaeal Group, and Marine Benthic Group-D, and Gammaproteobacteria was the dominant bacterial lineage. Fluorescence in situ hybridization analysis showed that ANME-1 and -2a, and most ANME-2c cells occurred without close physical interaction with potential bacterial partners. Our data demonstrate that the DHS bioreactor system is a useful system for cultivating fastidious methane-seep-associated sedimentary microorganisms.
PMCID: PMC4139340  PMID: 25141130
10.  Microbial community changes along the active seepage site of one cold seep in the Red Sea 
The active seepage of the marine cold seeps could be a critical process for the exchange of energy between the submerged geosphere and the sea floor environment through organic-rich fluids, potentially even affecting surrounding microbial habitats. However, few studies have investigated the associated microbial community changes. In the present study, 16S rRNA genes were pyrosequenced to decipher changes in the microbial communities from the Thuwal seepage point in the Red Sea to nearby marine sediments in the brine pool, normal marine sediments and water, and benthic microbial mats. An unexpected number of reads from unclassified groups were detected in these habitats; however, the ecological functions of these groups remain unresolved. Furthermore, ammonia-oxidizing archaeal community structures were investigated using the ammonia monooxygenase subunit A (amoA) gene. Analysis of amoA showed that planktonic marine habitats, including seeps and marine water, hosted archaeal ammonia oxidizers that differed from those in microbial mats and marine sediments, suggesting modifications of the ammonia oxidizing archaeal (AOA) communities along the environmental gradient from active seepage sites to peripheral areas. Changes in the microbial community structure of AOA in different habitats (water vs. sediment) potentially correlated with changes in salinity and oxygen concentrations. Overall, the present results revealed for the first time unanticipated novel microbial groups and changes in the ammonia-oxidizing archaea in response to environmental gradients near the active seepages of a cold seep.
PMCID: PMC4523032  PMID: 26284035
cold seep; Red Sea; 16S rRNA gene; pyrosequencing; ammonia oxidizing archaea
11.  Molecular Characterization of Potential Nitrogen Fixation by Anaerobic Methane-Oxidizing Archaea in the Methane Seep Sediments at the Number 8 Kumano Knoll in the Kumano Basin, Offshore of Japan▿ †  
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2009;75(22):7153-7162.
The potential for microbial nitrogen fixation in the anoxic methane seep sediments in a mud volcano, the number 8 Kumano Knoll, was characterized by molecular phylogenetic analyses. A total of 111 of the nifH (a gene coding a nitrogen fixation enzyme, Fe protein) clones were obtained from different depths of the core sediments, and the phylogenetic analysis of the clones indicated the genetic diversity of nifH genes. The predominant group detected (methane seep group 2), representing 74% of clonal abundance, was phylogenetically related to the nifH sequences obtained from the Methanosarcina species but was most closely related to the nifH sequences potentially derived from the anoxic methanotrophic archaea (ANME-2 archaea). The recovery of the nif gene clusters including the nifH sequences of the methane seep group 2 and the subsequent reverse transcription-PCR detection of the nifD and nifH genes strongly suggested that the genetic components of the gene clusters would be operative for the in situ assimilation of molecular nitrogen (N2) by the host microorganisms. DNA-based quantitative PCR of the archaeal 16S rRNA gene, the group-specific mcrA (a gene encoding the methyl-coenzyme M reductase α subunit) gene, and the nifD and nifH genes demonstrated the similar distribution patterns of the archaeal 16S rRNA gene, the mcrA groups c-d and e, and the nifD and nifH genes through the core sediments. These results supported the idea that the anoxic methanotrophic archaea ANME-2c could be the microorganisms hosting the nif gene clusters and could play an important role in not only the in situ carbon (methane) cycle but also the nitrogen cycle in subseafloor sediments.
PMCID: PMC2786543  PMID: 19783748
12.  Lipids of the ultra-thin square halophilic archaeon Haloquadratum walsbyi  
Archaea  2008;2(3):177-183.
The lipid composition of the extremely halophilic archaeon Haloquadratum walsbyi was investigated by thin-layer chromatography and electrospray ionization-mass spectrometry. The analysis of neutral lipids showed the presence of vitamin MK-8, squalene, carotene, bacterioruberin and several retinal isomers. The major polar lipids were phosphatidylglycerophosphate methyl ester, phosphatidylglycerosulfate, phosphatidylglycerol and sulfated diglycosyl diether lipid. Among cardiolipins, the tetra-phytanyl or dimeric phospholipids, only traces of bisphosphatidylglycerol were detected. When the cells were exposed to hypotonic medium, no changes in the membrane lipid composition occurred. Distinguishing it from other extreme halophiles of the Halobacteriaceae family, the osmotic stress did not induce the neo-synthesis of cardiolipins in H. walsbyi. The difference may depend on the three-laminar structure of the cell wall, which differs significantly from that of other Haloarchaea.
PMCID: PMC2685597  PMID: 19054744
Archaea; archaeal phospholipids; ether lipids; Halobacteriaceae
13.  Diversity and Distribution of Methanotrophic Archaea at Cold Seeps†  
In this study we investigated by using 16S rRNA-based methods the distribution and biomass of archaea in samples from (i) sediments above outcropping methane hydrate at Hydrate Ridge (Cascadia margin off Oregon) and (ii) massive microbial mats enclosing carbonate reefs (Crimea area, Black Sea). The archaeal diversity was low in both locations; there were only four (Hydrate Ridge) and five (Black Sea) different phylogenetic clusters of sequences, most of which belonged to the methanotrophic archaea (ANME). ANME group 2 (ANME-2) sequences were the most abundant and diverse sequences at Hydrate Ridge, whereas ANME-1 sequences dominated the Black Sea mats. Other seep-specific sequences belonged to the newly defined group ANME-3 (related to Methanococcoides spp.) and to the Crenarchaeota of marine benthic group B. Quantitative analysis of the samples by fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) showed that ANME-1 and ANME-2 co-occurred at the cold seep sites investigated. At Hydrate Ridge the surface sediments were dominated by aggregates consisting of ANME-2 and members of the Desulfosarcina-Desulfococcus branch (DSS) (ANME-2/DSS aggregates), which accounted for >90% of the total cell biomass. The numbers of ANME-1 cells increased strongly with depth; these cells accounted 1% of all single cells at the surface and more than 30% of all single cells (5% of the total cells) in 7- to 10-cm sediment horizons that were directly above layers of gas hydrate. In the Black Sea microbial mats ANME-1 accounted for about 50% of all cells. ANME-2/DSS aggregates occurred in microenvironments within the mat but accounted for only 1% of the total cells. FISH probes for the ANME-2a and ANME-2c subclusters were designed based on a comparative 16S rRNA analysis. In Hydrate Ridge sediments ANME-2a/DSS and ANME-2c/DSS aggregates differed significantly in morphology and abundance. The relative abundance values for these subgroups were remarkably different at Beggiatoa sites (80% ANME-2a, 20% ANME-2c) and Calyptogena sites (20% ANME-2a, 80% ANME-2c), indicating that there was preferential selection of the groups in the two habitats. These variations in the distribution, diversity, and morphology of methanotrophic consortia are discussed with respect to the presence of microbial ecotypes, niche formation, and biogeography.
PMCID: PMC544223  PMID: 15640223
14.  In Vitro Study of Lipid Biosynthesis in an Anaerobically Methane-Oxidizing Microbial Mat† 
The anaerobic oxidation of methane (AOM) is a key process in the global methane cycle, and the majority of methane formed in marine sediments is oxidized in this way. Here we present results of an in vitro 13CH4 labeling study (δ13CH4, ∼5,400‰) in which microorganisms that perform AOM in a microbial mat from the Black Sea were used. During 316 days of incubation, the 13C uptake into the mat biomass increased steadily, and there were remarkable differences for individual bacterial and archaeal lipid compounds. The greatest shifts were observed for bacterial fatty acids (e.g., hexadec-11-enoic acid [16:1Δ11]; difference between the δ13C at the start and the end of the experiment [Δδ13Cstart-end], ∼160‰). In contrast, bacterial glycerol diethers exhibited only slight changes in δ13C (Δδ13Cstart-end, ∼10‰). Differences were also found for individual archaeal lipids. Relatively high uptake of methane-derived carbon was observed for archaeol (Δδ13Cstart-end, ∼25‰), a monounsaturated archaeol, and biphytanes, whereas for sn-2-hydroxyarchaeol there was considerably less change in the δ13C (Δδ13Cstart-end, ∼2‰). Moreover, an increase in the uptake of 13C for compounds with a higher number of double bonds within a suite of polyunsaturated 2,6,10,15,19-pentamethyleicosenes indicated that in methanotrophic archaea there is a biosynthetic pathway similar to that proposed for methanogenic archaea. The presence of group-specific biomarkers (for ANME-1 and ANME-2 associations) and the observation that there were differences in 13C uptake into specific lipid compounds confirmed that multiple phylogenetically distinct microorganisms participate to various extents in biomass formation linked to AOM. However, the greater 13C uptake into the lipids of the sulfate-reducing bacteria (SRB) than into the lipids of archaea supports the hypothesis that there is autotrophic growth of SRB on small methane-derived carbon compounds supplied by the methane oxidizers.
PMCID: PMC1183335  PMID: 16085823
15.  Nitrate-based niche differentiation by distinct sulfate-reducing bacteria involved in the anaerobic oxidation of methane 
The ISME Journal  2013;8(1):150-163.
Diverse associations between methanotrophic archaea (ANME) and sulfate-reducing bacterial groups (SRB) often co-occur in marine methane seeps; however, the ecophysiology of these different symbiotic associations has not been examined. Here, we applied a combination of molecular, geochemical and Fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) coupled to nanoscale secondary ion mass spectrometry (FISH-NanoSIMS) analyses of in situ seep sediments and methane-amended sediment incubations from diverse locations (Eel River Basin, Hydrate Ridge and Costa Rican Margin seeps) to investigate the distribution and physiology of a newly identified subgroup of the Desulfobulbaceae (seepDBB) found in consortia with ANME-2c archaea, and compared these with the more commonly observed associations between the same ANME partner and the Desulfobacteraceae (DSS). FISH analyses revealed aggregates of seepDBB cells in association with ANME-2 from both environmental samples and laboratory incubations that are distinct in their structure relative to co-occurring ANME/DSS consortia. ANME/seepDBB aggregates were most abundant in shallow sediment depths below sulfide-oxidizing microbial mats. Depth profiles of ANME/seepDBB aggregate abundance revealed a positive correlation with elevated porewater nitrate relative to ANME/DSS aggregates in all seep sites examined. This relationship with nitrate was supported by sediment microcosm experiments, in which the abundance of ANME/seepDBB was greater in nitrate-amended incubations relative to the unamended control. FISH-NanoSIMS additionally revealed significantly higher 15N-nitrate incorporation levels in individual aggregates of ANME/seepDBB relative to ANME/DSS aggregates from the same incubation. These combined results suggest that nitrate is a geochemical effector of ANME/seepDBB aggregate distribution, and provides a unique niche for these consortia through their utilization of a greater range of nitrogen substrates than the ANME/DSS.
PMCID: PMC3869021  PMID: 24008326
niche differentiation; nitrate assimilation; Desulfobulbaceae; methane seep; symbiosis
16.  Macroscopic Biofilms in Fracture-Dominated Sediment That Anaerobically Oxidize Methane ▿ †  
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2011;77(19):6780-6787.
Methane release from seafloor sediments is moderated, in part, by the anaerobic oxidation of methane (AOM) performed by consortia of archaea and bacteria. These consortia occur as isolated cells and aggregates within the sulfate-methane transition (SMT) of diffusion and seep-dominant environments. Here we report on a new SMT setting where the AOM consortium occurs as macroscopic pink to orange biofilms within subseafloor fractures. Biofilm samples recovered from the Indian and northeast Pacific Oceans had a cellular abundance of 107 to 108 cells cm−3. This cell density is 2 to 3 orders of magnitude greater than that in the surrounding sediments. Sequencing of bacterial 16S rRNA genes indicated that the bacterial component is dominated by Deltaproteobacteria, candidate division WS3, and Chloroflexi, representing 46%, 15%, and 10% of clones, respectively. In addition, major archaeal taxa found in the biofilm were related to the ANME-1 clade, Thermoplasmatales, and Desulfurococcales, representing 73%, 11%, and 10% of archaeal clones, respectively. The sequences of all major taxa were similar to sequences previously reported from cold seep environments. PhyloChip microarray analysis detected all bacterial phyla identified by the clone library plus an additional 44 phyla. However, sequencing detected more archaea than the PhyloChip within the phyla of Methanosarcinales and Desulfurococcales. The stable carbon isotope composition of the biofilm from the SMT (−35 to −43‰) suggests that the production of the biofilm is associated with AOM. These biofilms are a novel, but apparently widespread, aggregation of cells represented by the ANME-1 clade that occur in methane-rich marine sediments.
PMCID: PMC3187087  PMID: 21821755
17.  Spatial Structure and Activity of Sedimentary Microbial Communities Underlying a Beggiatoa spp. Mat in a Gulf of Mexico Hydrocarbon Seep 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(1):e8738.
Subsurface fluids from deep-sea hydrocarbon seeps undergo methane- and sulfur-cycling microbial transformations near the sediment surface. Hydrocarbon seep habitats are naturally patchy, with a mosaic of active seep sediments and non-seep sediments. Microbial community shifts and changing activity patterns on small spatial scales from seep to non-seep sediment remain to be examined in a comprehensive habitat study.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We conducted a transect of biogeochemical measurements and gene expression related to methane- and sulfur-cycling at different sediment depths across a broad Beggiatoa spp. mat at Mississippi Canyon 118 (MC118) in the Gulf of Mexico. High process rates within the mat (∼400 cm and ∼10 cm from the mat's edge) contrasted with sharply diminished activity at ∼50 cm outside the mat, as shown by sulfate and methane concentration profiles, radiotracer rates of sulfate reduction and methane oxidation, and stable carbon isotopes. Likewise, 16S ribosomal rRNA, dsrAB (dissimilatory sulfite reductase) and mcrA (methyl coenzyme M reductase) mRNA transcripts of sulfate-reducing bacteria (Desulfobacteraceae and Desulfobulbaceae) and methane-cycling archaea (ANME-1 and ANME-2) were prevalent at the sediment surface under the mat and at its edge. Outside the mat at the surface, 16S rRNA sequences indicated mostly aerobes commonly found in seawater. The seep-related communities persisted at 12–20 cm depth inside and outside the mat. 16S rRNA transcripts and V6-tags reveal that bacterial and archaeal diversity underneath the mat are similar to each other, in contrast to oxic or microoxic habitats that have higher bacterial diversity.
The visual patchiness of microbial mats reflects sharp discontinuities in microbial community structure and activity over sub-meter spatial scales; these discontinuities have to be taken into account in geochemical and microbiological inventories of seep environments. In contrast, 12–20 cm deep in the sediments microbial communities performing methane-cycling and sulfate reduction persist at lower metabolic rates regardless of mat cover, and may increase activity rapidly when subsurface flow changes.
PMCID: PMC2806916  PMID: 20090951
18.  Characterization of C1-Metabolizing Prokaryotic Communities in Methane Seep Habitats at the Kuroshima Knoll, Southern Ryukyu Arc, by Analyzing pmoA, mmoX, mxaF, mcrA, and 16S rRNA Genes 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2004;70(12):7445-7455.
Samples from three submerged sites (MC, a core obtained in the methane seep area; MR, a reference core obtained at a distance from the methane seep; and HC, a gas-bubbling carbonate sample) at the Kuroshima Knoll in the southern Ryuku arc were analyzed to gain insight into the organisms present and the processes involved in this oxic-anoxic methane seep environment. 16S rRNA gene analyses by quantitative real-time PCR and clone library sequencing revealed that the MC core sediments contained abundant archaea (∼34% of the total prokaryotes), including both mesophilic methanogens related to the genus Methanolobus and ANME-2 members of the Methanosarcinales, as well as members of the δ-Proteobacteria, suggesting that both anaerobic methane oxidation and methanogenesis occurred at this site. In addition, several functional genes connected with methane metabolism were analyzed by quantitative competitive-PCR, including the genes encoding particulate methane monooxygenase (pmoA), soluble methane monooxygenase (mmoX), methanol dehydrogenese (mxaF), and methyl coenzyme M reductase (mcrA). In the MC core sediments, the most abundant gene was mcrA (2.5 × 106 copies/g [wet weight]), while the pmoA gene of the type I methanotrophs (5.9 × 106 copies/g [wet weight]) was most abundant at the surface of the MC core. These results indicate that there is a very complex environment in which methane production, anaerobic methane oxidation, and aerobic methane oxidation all occur in close proximity. The HC carbonate site was rich in γ-Proteobacteria and had a high copy number of mxaF (7.1 × 106 copies/g [wet weight]) and a much lower copy number of the pmoA gene (3.2 × 102 copies/g [wet weight]). The mmoX gene was never detected. In contrast, the reference core contained familiar sequences of marine sedimentary archaeal and bacterial groups but not groups specific to C1 metabolism. Geochemical characterization of the amounts and isotopic composition of pore water methane and sulfate strongly supported the notion that in this zone both aerobic methane oxidation and anaerobic methane oxidation, as well as methanogenesis, occur.
PMCID: PMC535202  PMID: 15574947
19.  A metagenomic study of methanotrophic microorganisms in Coal Oil Point seep sediments 
BMC Microbiology  2011;11:221.
Methane oxidizing prokaryotes in marine sediments are believed to function as a methane filter reducing the oceanic contribution to the global methane emission. In the anoxic parts of the sediments, oxidation of methane is accomplished by anaerobic methanotrophic archaea (ANME) living in syntrophy with sulphate reducing bacteria. This anaerobic oxidation of methane is assumed to be a coupling of reversed methanogenesis and dissimilatory sulphate reduction. Where oxygen is available aerobic methanotrophs take part in methane oxidation. In this study, we used metagenomics to characterize the taxonomic and metabolic potential for methane oxidation at the Tonya seep in the Coal Oil Point area, California. Two metagenomes from different sediment depth horizons (0-4 cm and 10-15 cm below sea floor) were sequenced by 454 technology. The metagenomes were analysed to characterize the distribution of aerobic and anaerobic methanotrophic taxa at the two sediment depths. To gain insight into the metabolic potential the metagenomes were searched for marker genes associated with methane oxidation.
Blast searches followed by taxonomic binning in MEGAN revealed aerobic methanotrophs of the genus Methylococcus to be overrepresented in the 0-4 cm metagenome compared to the 10-15 cm metagenome. In the 10-15 cm metagenome, ANME of the ANME-1 clade, were identified as the most abundant methanotrophic taxon with 8.6% of the reads. Searches for particulate methane monooxygenase (pmoA) and methyl-coenzyme M reductase (mcrA), marker genes for aerobic and anaerobic oxidation of methane respectively, identified pmoA in the 0-4 cm metagenome as Methylococcaceae related. The mcrA reads from the 10-15 cm horizon were all classified as originating from the ANME-1 clade.
Most of the taxa detected were present in both metagenomes and differences in community structure and corresponding metabolic potential between the two samples were mainly due to abundance differences.
The results suggests that the Tonya Seep sediment is a robust methane filter, where taxa presently dominating this process could be replaced by less abundant methanotrophic taxa in case of changed environmental conditions.
PMCID: PMC3197505  PMID: 21970369
20.  Growth of Anaerobic Methane-Oxidizing Archaea and Sulfate-Reducing Bacteria in a High-Pressure Membrane Capsule Bioreactor 
Communities of anaerobic methane-oxidizing archaea (ANME) and sulfate-reducing bacteria (SRB) grow slowly, which limits the ability to perform physiological studies. High methane partial pressure was previously successfully applied to stimulate growth, but it is not clear how different ANME subtypes and associated SRB are affected by it. Here, we report on the growth of ANME-SRB in a membrane capsule bioreactor inoculated with Eckernförde Bay sediment that combines high-pressure incubation (10.1 MPa methane) and thorough mixing (100 rpm) with complete cell retention by a 0.2-μm-pore-size membrane. The results were compared to previously obtained data from an ambient-pressure (0.101 MPa methane) bioreactor inoculated with the same sediment. The rates of oxidation of labeled methane were not higher at 10.1 MPa, likely because measurements were done at ambient pressure. The subtype ANME-2a/b was abundant in both reactors, but subtype ANME-2c was enriched only at 10.1 MPa. SRB at 10.1 MPa mainly belonged to the SEEP-SRB2 and Eel-1 groups and the Desulfuromonadales and not to the typically found SEEP-SRB1 group. The increase of ANME-2a/b occurred in parallel with the increase of SEEP-SRB2, which was previously found to be associated only with ANME-2c. Our results imply that the syntrophic association is flexible and that methane pressure and sulfide concentration influence the growth of different ANME-SRB consortia. We also studied the effect of elevated methane pressure on methane production and oxidation by a mixture of methanogenic and sulfate-reducing sludge. Here, methane oxidation rates decreased and were not coupled to sulfide production, indicating trace methane oxidation during net methanogenesis and not anaerobic methane oxidation, even at a high methane partial pressure.
PMCID: PMC4309696  PMID: 25501484
21.  Diversity and Abundance of Aerobic and Anaerobic Methane Oxidizers at the Haakon Mosby Mud Volcano, Barents Sea▿  
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2007;73(10):3348-3362.
Submarine mud volcanoes are formed by expulsions of mud, fluids, and gases from deeply buried subsurface sources. They are highly reduced benthic habitats and often associated with intensive methane seepage. In this study, the microbial diversity and community structure in methane-rich sediments of the Haakon Mosby Mud Volcano (HMMV) were investigated by comparative sequence analysis of 16S rRNA genes and fluorescence in situ hybridization. In the active volcano center, which has a diameter of about 500 m, the main methane-consuming process was bacterial aerobic oxidation. In this zone, aerobic methanotrophs belonging to three bacterial clades closely affiliated with Methylobacter and Methylophaga species accounted for 56% ± 8% of total cells. In sediments below Beggiatoa mats encircling the center of the HMMV, methanotrophic archaea of the ANME-3 clade dominated the zone of anaerobic methane oxidation. ANME-3 archaea form cell aggregates mostly associated with sulfate-reducing bacteria of the Desulfobulbus (DBB) branch. These ANME-3/DBB aggregates were highly abundant and accounted for up to 94% ± 2% of total microbial biomass at 2 to 3 cm below the surface. ANME-3/DBB aggregates could be further enriched by flow cytometry to identify their phylogenetic relationships. At the outer rim of the mud volcano, the seafloor was colonized by tubeworms (Siboglinidae, formerly known as Pogonophora). Here, both aerobic and anaerobic methane oxidizers were found, however, in lower abundances. The level of microbial diversity at this site was higher than that at the central and Beggiatoa species-covered part of the HMMV. Analysis of methyl-coenzyme M-reductase alpha subunit (mcrA) genes showed a strong dominance of a novel lineage, mcrA group f, which could be assigned to ANME-3 archaea. Our results further support the hypothesis of Niemann et al. (54), that high methane availability and different fluid flow regimens at the HMMV provide distinct niches for aerobic and anaerobic methanotrophs.
PMCID: PMC1907091  PMID: 17369343
22.  The Role of Tetraether Lipid Composition in the Adaptation of Thermophilic Archaea to Acidity 
Diether and tetraether lipids are fundamental components of the archaeal cell membrane. Archaea adjust the degree of tetraether lipid cyclization in order to maintain functional membranes and cellular homeostasis when confronted with pH and/or thermal stress. Thus, the ability to adjust tetraether lipid composition likely represents a critical phenotypic trait that enabled archaeal diversification into environments characterized by extremes in pH and/or temperature. Here we assess the relationship between geochemical variation, core- and polar-isoprenoid glycerol dibiphytanyl glycerol tetraether (C-iGDGT and P-iGDGT, respectively) lipid composition, and archaeal 16S rRNA gene diversity and abundance in 27 geothermal springs in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. The composition and abundance of C-iGDGT and P-iGDGT lipids recovered from geothermal ecosystems were distinct from surrounding soils, indicating that they are synthesized endogenously. With the exception of GDGT-0 (no cyclopentyl rings), the abundances of individual C-iGDGT and P-iGDGT lipids were significantly correlated. The abundance of a number of individual tetraether lipids varied positively with the relative abundance of individual 16S rRNA gene sequences, most notably crenarchaeol in both the core and polar GDGT fraction and sequences closely affiliated with Candidatus Nitrosocaldus yellowstonii. This finding supports the proposal that crenarchaeol is a biomarker for nitrifying archaea. Variation in the degree of cyclization of C- and P-iGDGT lipids recovered from geothermal mats and sediments could best be explained by variation in spring pH, with lipids from acidic environments tending to have, on average, more internal cyclic rings than those from higher pH ecosystems. Likewise, variation in the phylogenetic composition of archaeal 16S rRNA genes could best be explained by spring pH. In turn, the phylogenetic similarity of archaeal 16S rRNA genes was significantly correlated with the similarity in the composition of C- and P-iGDGT lipids. Taken together, these data suggest that the ability to adjust the composition of GDGT lipid membranes played a central role in the diversification of archaea into or out of environments characterized by extremes of low pH and high temperature.
PMCID: PMC3615187  PMID: 23565112
tetraether lipids; Nitrosocaldus; amoA; nitrification; crenarchaeol; community ecology; phylogenetic ecology
23.  Phylogenetic Diversity and Ecological Pattern of Ammonia-oxidizing Archaea in the Surface Sediments of the Western Pacific 
Microbial Ecology  2011;62(4):813-823.
The phylogenetic diversity of ammonia-oxidizing archaea (AOA) was surveyed in the surface sediments from the northern part of the South China Sea (SCS). The distribution pattern of AOA in the western Pacific was discussed through comparing the SCS with other areas in the western Pacific including Changjiang Estuary and the adjacent East China Sea where high input of anthropogenic nitrogen was evident, the tropical West Pacific Continental Margins close to the Philippines, the deep-sea methane seep sediments in the Okhotsk Sea, the cold deep sea of Northeastern Japan Sea, and the hydrothermal field in the Southern Okinawa Trough. These various environments provide a wide spectrum of physical and chemical conditions for a better understanding of the distribution pattern and diversities of AOA in the western Pacific. Under these different conditions, the distinct community composition between shallow and deep-sea sediments was clearly delineated based on the UniFrac PCoA and Jackknife Environmental Cluster analyses. Phylogenetic analyses showed that a few ammonia-oxidizing archaeal subclades in the marine water column/sediment clade and endemic lineages were indicative phylotypes for some environments. Higher phylogenetic diversity was observed in the Philippines while lower diversity in the hydrothermal vent habitat. Water depth and possibly with other environmental factors could be the main driving forces to shape the phylogenetic diversity of AOA observed, not only in the SCS but also in the whole western Pacific. The multivariate regression tree analysis also supported this observation consistently. Moreover, the functions of current and other climate factors were also discussed in comparison of phylogenetic diversity. The information collectively provides important insights into the ecophysiological requirements of uncultured ammonia-oxidizing archaeal lineages in the western Pacific Ocean.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00248-011-9901-0) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC3206191  PMID: 21748268
24.  Growth and Population Dynamics of Anaerobic Methane-Oxidizing Archaea and Sulfate-Reducing Bacteria in a Continuous-Flow Bioreactor 
The consumption of methane in anoxic marine sediments is a biogeochemical phenomenon mediated by two archaeal groups (ANME-1 and ANME-2) that exist syntrophically with sulfate-reducing bacteria. These anaerobic methanotrophs have yet to be recovered in pure culture, and key aspects of their ecology and physiology remain poorly understood. To characterize the growth and physiology of these anaerobic methanotrophs and the syntrophic sulfate-reducing bacteria, we incubated marine sediments using an anoxic, continuous-flow bioreactor during two experiments at different advective porewater flow rates. We examined the growth kinetics of anaerobic methanotrophs and Desulfosarcina-like sulfate-reducing bacteria using quantitative PCR as a proxy for cell counts, and measured methane oxidation rates using membrane-inlet mass spectrometry. Our data show that the specific growth rates of ANME-1 and ANME-2 archaea differed in response to porewater flow rates. ANME-2 methanotrophs had the highest rates in lower-flow regimes (μANME-2 = 0.167 · week−1), whereas ANME-1 methanotrophs had the highest rates in higher-flow regimes (μANME-1 = 0.218 · week−1). In both incubations, Desulfosarcina-like sulfate-reducing bacterial growth rates were approximately 0.3 · week−1, and their growth dynamics suggested that sulfate-reducing bacterial growth might be facilitated by, but not dependent upon, an established anaerobic methanotrophic population. ANME-1 growth rates corroborate field observations that ANME-1 archaea flourish in higher-flow regimes. Our growth and methane oxidation rates jointly demonstrate that anaerobic methanotrophs are capable of attaining substantial growth over a range of environmental conditions used in these experiments, including relatively low methane partial pressures.
PMCID: PMC1169053  PMID: 16000782
25.  Stratified active archaeal communities in the sediments of Jiulong River estuary, China 
Here the composition of total and active archaeal communities in a sediment core of Jiulong River estuary at Fujian Province, Southern China was reported. Profiles of CH4 and SO2−4 concentrations from the sediment core indicated the existence of a sulfate-methane transition zone (SMTZ) in which sulfate reduction-coupled anaerobic oxidation of methane (AOM) occurs. Accordingly, three sediment layers (16–18.5 cm, 71–73.5 cm, and 161–163.5 cm) from the 1.2 m sediment core were sectioned and named top, middle and bottom, respectively. Total DNA and RNA of each layer were extracted and used for clone libraries and sequence analysis of 16S rRNA genes, the reverse transcription (RT)-PCR products of 16S rRNA and methyl CoM reductase alpha subunit (mcrA) genes. Phylogenetic analysis indicated that archaeal communities of the three layers were dominated by the Miscellaneous Crenarchaeotal Group (MCG) whose ecological functions were still unknown. The MCG could be further divided into seven subgroups, named MCG-A, B, C, D, E, F, and G. MCG-A and MCG-G were the most active groups in the estuarine sediments. Known anaerobic methanotrophic archaea (ANMEs) were only found as minor components in these estuarine archaeal communities. This study, together with the studies of deep subsurface sediments, would be a very good start point to target and compare the specific active archaeal groups and their roles in the dark, deep subsurface sediment environments.
PMCID: PMC3430981  PMID: 22969752
archaea; methanogen; ANME; SMTZ; anaerobic oxidation of methane; mcrA; estuary; microbial community

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